The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi lands protest punch on Pak

New Delhi, Oct. 25: India is sending a delegation to Islamabad on Friday to hold talks with Pakistan on the proposed points of entry across the Line of Control to facilitate relief operations and contact between divided families.

Along with the announcement of the delegation’s visit to Islamabad, India came out with a strong statement on the clashes between Kashmiris and the armed forces in Gilgit in Pakistan Kashmir.

Delhi urged the neighbouring government to act with “utmost restraint” in dealing with the “legitimate protests and demonstrations” in the area.

The sharp reaction, though in response to critical comments coming out from Islamabad in the past weeks on the manner in which Delhi had been handling relief operations in Jammu and Kashmir, is aimed at telling Pakistan to lay off and concentrate on the proposed cooperation between the two countries.

It was also a reminder to Pakistan of India’s territorial claim to occupied Kashmir.

“We have noted with concern reports in the Pakistani media about a curfew being imposed in Gilgit and action taken by Pakistani forces against the people in that region,” foreign ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said tonight.

“There is a history of sectarian conflict in Gilgit and Baltistan regions of Jammu and Kashmir and of severe repressive measures being taken against legitimate protests and demonstrations. We hope that Pakistani forces will act with utmost restraint and observe international human rights standards. We will keep the situation under close watch,” the foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Sectarian violence has been going on in Gilgit and Baltistan of Pakistan Kashmir for the past two weeks between Shias and Sunnis and later between Pakistani Rangers and residents.

The Pakistani authorities have imposed curfew in the area and reports from across the border suggest that the situation has remained tense.

Indian officials justified the strong reaction by saying that the situation in Gilgit and Baltistan was “so serious” that it could not be ignored.

Sarna said the Indian delegation would be led by Dilip Sinha, the joint secretary in charge of Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan division in the foreign ministry.

The team will also have officials from the home and defence ministries as well as representatives of the Jammu and Kashmir government. The talks between the two sides will be held on October 29.

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